Old Mansion, New Life

While Prada is a luxury fashion brand, it has a longstanding relationship with both radical contemporary architecture and exquisite historic preservation around the world. And the unveiling of Prada Rong Zhai marks the latest in this ongoing investigation into the form and language of design.

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Originally built and designed for the distinguished family of Yung Tsoong-King – a widely successful tycoon also known as the “Flour King of China”, the luxury mansion is considered to be one of Shanghai’s finest Western-style garden villas. And in 2011, Prada began working with renovation specialist architect Roberto Baciocchi on an epic revival of the stunning home, and the result is an emblem of Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli’s admiration of Chinese aesthetic heritage and a deep commitment to the city of Shanghai. The restoration campaign has been carried out in a very careful way, aiming to both repair damage and reinstate the historic appearance of the building’s interiors and exterior, while also making necessary structural reinforcements and functional updates. A team of Italian and Chinese specialist craftsmen was hand-selected to undertake the conservation of the building’s many ornamental and structural elements, including plaster-work, wooden paneling, stained glass, and multiple types of decorative tile. Whenever possible, fabrication and installation techniques were modeled on the traditional methods and materials utilized by the craftsmen who originally built Rong Zhai over a century ago.

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In addition to Rong Zhai, the renowned brand is known for an extensive experience in rigorous historic preservation projects, including the renovation of sections of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the grand nineteenth-century shopping arcade in Milan, and palazzo Ca’ Corner della Regina, an opulent baroque-era palace on the Grand Canal in Venice reconfigured as an art space. The restoration of Rong Zhai combines that experience in historic building, an abiding belief in the value of traditional craftsmanship, and a dynamic collaboration between Western architects and Chinese scholars and artisans. The result is a true hybrid: a dialogue between Milan and Shanghai that stands as a testament to the family that commissioned it, the numerous architects and artists who shaped it, and the teams of Chinese and Italian specialists who brought it back to its rightful grandeur. Today, open to the public, the stunning renovated mansion serves as a unique site for the company’s diverse activities in China.

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